cover image Death: A Life

Death: A Life

George Pendle, . . Three Rivers, $13.95 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-307-39560-3

Pendle turns out a wicked satire of death in this faux autobiography. Death, the spawn of Sin and Satan, begins his story at the dawn of creation, before the beginning of God's newest project, Earth. With only a bit of “the Darkness from the deepest depths” as a keepsake, Death and family travel to the freshly minted Earth, where Death's father takes advantage of the gullible animals (prior to Satan's arrival, the T-Rex was a vegetarian). It isn't until Death accidentally kills a unicorn that he realizes his calling, and soon he recounts his role in some of the most celebrated deaths in history, including Cain's murder of Abel, Socrates' suicide and the resurrection of Jesus. However, Death's profession is demanding and solitary, and at the urging of his only human friend, he begins to dabble with Life to relieve stress. He forms a “physical dependency on Life,” and after a 10-day period in 1582 when nothing dies, Death is forced into rehab and begins his painful recovery. Pendle's coruscating wit is a great match for the material, and he makes the most of it. (Sept.)